travelers jet lag
Sleep Hygiene

Managing Jet Lag

Most of us have experienced jet lag – those headaches, fitful sleep and difficulty concentrating that happen when we have crossed several time zones.

But you can manage the condition. Here are some tips from the experts at Harvard Medical School:

If you’re traveling just a short distance – say, one or two time zones, try waking up, eating and sleeping at the same time you do at home. Additionally, schedule appointments for the same time you would at home.

If you need to travel longer distances, the Harvard experts suggest, gradually “switch” to the new time zone by moving meal times and bedtimes closer to the time zone of your destination.

Once you’re on your way, the experts say, drink plenty of water (not caffeine or alcohol) Caffeine and alcohol promote dehyrdration and can disturb sleep.

Go to bed in your new time zone.

The sun can also help you readjust. The Harvard experts say that if you need to wake up earlier in the new time zone, If you need to wake up earlier in the new setting (you’ve flown west to east), you need exposure to the early morning sun. If you’ve flown east to west, make sure you get some afternoon sunlight.

If you need to travel on short notice or have a severe jet lag case, the Harvard experts say, ask your doctor about a timed dose of melatonin or ramelteon. These medicines can help you shift your body rhythm. Or you can take a short course of an over-the-counter sleep aid that may help.

To learn more about getting a good night’s sleep, buy Improving Sleep, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.